Hawkeyes’ defense comes up big in 26-20 win over Nebraska
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Tyler Goodson ran for 87 of his 111 yards in the second half and Zach VanValkenburg recovered Adrian Martinez’s late fumble to secure Iowa’s 26-20 win over Nebraska on Friday.
The Hawkeyes (4-2, 4-2 Big Ten) extended their win streak to four games and have beaten the Cornhuskers (1-4, 1-4) six years in a row.
“Any time you win a Big Ten game it’s a big deal, especially against a rival,” Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras said.
Iowa was looking to add to its six-point lead when Keith Duncan’s 51-yard field-goal attempt bounced off the cross bar with 2:02 left. The Cornhuskers then drove from their 32 to the Iowa 39 before Martinez fumbled under pressure. Iowa ran out the last 1:18.
“I don’t think our record is indicative of where we are and the improvements we’ve made,” Nebraska coach Scott Frost said. “Sooner or later we need to be buttoned up and detailed enough to make sure these close games go our way.”
Tied 13-13 at halftime, Nebraska took its first lead on its opening drive of the third quarter. Utilizing a quick tempo, the Huskers capped an eight-play, 70-yard drive with a 12-yard touchdown run by Rahmir Johnson.
“We spoke at halftime,” Petras said. “The only thing holding us back was ourselves. We needed to come out there with a big drive.”
Iowa answered with a 14-play, 66-yard drive. Mekhi Sargen punctuated the drive with a touchdown, and Duncan followed with field goals of 48 and 37 yards.
“We like pounding the ball,” offensive lineman Jack Plum said. “It’s tough Iowa football. When we can get the ground game going, we like running it.”
Petras completed 18 of 30 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown, with one interception.
Martinez, back as the starter after two games, was 18 of 20 for 174 yards. He also ran for 28 yards and a score.
“Very frustrating for us as players, as coaches,” Martinez said. “I know we’re not satisfied. We want to beat these guys and we’ve been in a ton of close games against this team year in and year out... I have a ton of faith in Coach Frost and these guys. We’re going to find a way.”
Duncan has turned into one of the great villains in this rivalry. Last year he blew a kiss to the Nebraska bench after making the winning field goal as time expired. Friday, he jabbed the Huskers for receiver Kade Warner’s comment Monday about the team growing mustaches for the Iowa game.
“I think they’re too busy worrying about growing their mustaches than playing football, but that’s the difference between Nebraska and Iowa,” he said.
TOO MUCH CLAPPING
Nebraska center Cam Jurgens continued to struggle with the accuracy of his snaps, and Frost said the problem was caused by disruptive clapping on the Iowa sideline.
Ferentz pooh-poohed Frost’s explanation.
“It’s football. So maybe they need to change their cadence if it was interference of cadence,” Ferentz said.
Later, Ferentz added, “What are we talking about? It’s football, right? It’s football. Are they OK with how I dressed today? Should I be changing my pants, different shirt? What are we talking about?”
Daviyon Nixon continues to make his case for Big Ten defensive player of the year. The defensive tackle finished the game with eight tackles, three for loss and a sack. Nixon now has 11.5 tackles for a loss and five sacks through six games.
COSTLY SPECIAL TEAMS ERROR
After forcing an Iowa three-and-out, Nebraska muffed a punt. Terry Roberts recovered the ball, setting Iowa up with a first down from the Huskers’ 38.
“Coach (LeVar) Woods, he told us all week, ‘At some point, they’re going to put one on the ground,’ ” Roberts said.
Iowa turned the muffed punt into a field goal, extending its lead.
Nebraska: The Huskers’ defense proved better than advertised. Ranking 13th in the conference in rushing yards allowed per game, Nebraska held Iowa to just 123 on the ground -- the second-fewest by the Hawkeyes this season.
“Coming into the game, we expected them to overflow like they did,” Goodson said. “They watched film, studied us, and made some great adjustments.”
Iowa: The Hawkeyes wanted to prove they could finish close games after dropping two to start the year, and they did just that. Iowa’s defense came up clutch, forcing the game-sealing fumble with Nebraska driving, and the offense found its rhythm in the second half.
Nebraska: The Huskers play at Purdue on Dec. 5.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes visit Illinois on Dec. 5.